Poll: Ulster Player of the Season
Fans asked to select the deserving winner
Cliftonville's trophy cabinet is already starting to burst at the seems.
With the Irish League championship and IRN-BRU League Cup already safely tucked away the Reds will be chasing a treble when they meet Glentoran in this Saturday’s Irish Cup final at Windsor Park.
And the north-Belfast side might not be finished there.
Once all the trophies are played for on the pitch the personal awards will then be handed out and five members of Cliftonville’s title winning squad are in the running to win the prestigious Marine Court Hotel Ulster Player of the Year Award.
Normally voted for by a panel selected by the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters’ Club, the award — which was won by then Ballymena United striker Gary McCutcheon last year — has a new sponsor this year in the shape of the Marine Court Hotel in Bangor and for the first time the winner will be decided by a public vote via the Belfast Telegraph website.
The panel has come up with a shortlist of the seven players they believe were the best performers during the Irish FA Premiership season.
Thirty-six goal striker Liam Boyce, his prolific partner Joe Gormley, midfield dynamo Ryan Catney, inspirational captain George McMullan and impressive goalkeeper Conor Devlin all played a major role in the Reds’ title success and they will be hard to separate in the voting.
Add in Timmy Adamson, who helped fire Crusaders to second place in the table and Ballinamallard United’s outstanding captain Mark Stafford and you realise that deciding the winner really will be a tough call.
And with only three clubs represented there is a large number of players around the league who didn’t even manage to make it onto the shortlist — including other Cliftonville players who were also instrumental in their success this season.
The award will be presented at a dinner in the Marine Court Hotel on Friday, May 31.
“The Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters’ Club Ulster Football of the Year is the longest running award in local football and it’s the quality of the names that have won it in the past that gives it its prestige,” said award panel chairman Bobby Carlisle, himself a former winner from his days as goalkeeper at Cliftonville.
“You only have to look at Dick Keith, Wilbur Cush and Jackie Milburn — who were winners in a three-year spell during the 1950s — to see the great names who have won the award.
“Glenn Ferguson also won it three times in six years.
“Players always tell me that when they look at the trophy and see the names that are on it before them they are delighted to have joined such an elite list.
“As a panel we still very much look forward to getting together to discuss the candidates and it’s great that this year we have given the football public who watch these players every week the opportunity to have a vote.
“When players look at the names of the past and see their own appended to that, any player worth his salt would be very proud to win it.”
Voting has now closed. The winner will be announced in the Belfast Telegraph on Friday May 3.
Liam Boyce - Cliftonville
His 29 league goals in 36 games don’t even tell all the story. With 36 goals in total he has scored more in one season than any other Reds player.
Conor Devlin - Cliftonville
Outstanding in his first season in Irish League football and cross-channel clubs are expected to come calling in the summer.
George McMullan - Cliftonville
Was superb all season in an unfamiliar right-back role and stayed cool to score the penalty that clinched the league title.
Joe Gormley - Cliftonville
Formed a prolific partnership with Boyce, scoring 17 league goals in 30 games.
Mark Stafford - Ballinmallard
Excellent in his debut season in the top flight after Ballinamallard’s promotion and also knocked back interest from Linfield.
Ryan Catney Cliftonville
An unsung hero of the Reds’ title success. His performances in midfield were instrumental.
Timmy Adamson - Crusaders
His 15 league goals were a big reason why Crusaders finished second to Cliftonville.